Hyperion Power Generation is venture capital funded company that is trying to factory mass produce a uranium hydride nuclear reactor. $25-30 million per unit which would be 15-20 tons and generate 27 MW of electricity and 70 MW thermal. It would burn up to 50% of the uranium nuclear fuel for 5-10 years. It would then be dug up out of the ground and processed by the company and remove about a football or softball of unburned fuel.
1. Hyperion Power Generation is not a scam.
The company has been in discussions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Then the issue is not if they are real but can they deliver and when would they deliver. The NRC had a powerpoint where they estimated review times.
On page 8 of this PDF, the NRC is estimating 2008-2011 for Hyperion pre-application work and then 2012-2015 for license review. Hyperion is shooting for June 2013. So Hyperion needs to help the NRC accelerate by 18 months to meet their schedule. The NRC has indicated that the schedule is tentative pending the actual application.
The NRC strategy is to use the licensee generated work for the licensing. ie. NRC will make Hyperion do the work to answer NRC questions. NRC just needs to have a few people who understand what to ask and understand prepared answers. this is the same as building code licenses at cities. The city department building people depend upon
the builders, architects and engineers highrises, buildings and buildings to prepare the proof of safety and reliability.
Uranium hydride is real. Edward Teller tried to make bombs out of the stuff back in the 1950s and got a disappointing 200 tons of explosion. A question is how well the self regulation and moderation of the hydrogen will work in the HPG patented approach from LANL.
2. The system has the potential to save a lot of money for enhancing oil and oilshale
For getting oil from oil shale this system can supply heat instead of natural gas. Hyperion also offers a 70% reduction in operating costs (based on costs for field-generation of steam in oil-shale recovery operations), from $11 per million BTU for natural gas to $3 per million BTU for Hyperion. Over five years, a single Hyperion reactor can save $2 billion in operating costs in a heavy oil field. A lot of
the initial one hundred orders are from oil and gas companies.
Even taking an extra 5 years to full automation and having some higher initially costs is not fatal to the company or the ideas. Being able to sell to oil and gas firms internationally or in China while awaiting full NRC approval could still work. ie. An extra few years to really deliver but have some sales to keep things going until the full vision is realized. I think it is somewhat comparable to SpaceX.
Trying to take an innovative approach to an older tech problem, with an entrepreneurial effort. The superior approach should be result in systems that have advantages, but execution will be only be seen as it unfolds.
So the cost can go up a lot and this thing is still worthwhile.
3. The concept of getting to factory mass production and shorter build times makes a lot sense.
4. China is looking to factory mass produce their 200MW high temperature reactor (first one going in 2009-2013). China seems likely to push ahead to execute on this even if initial costs are higher than expected. They have the money to stick with it and execute. 8+ units with common control center. Russia is looking to mass produce small breeder reactors that are factory mass produced. Russia is building their 800MW breeder now Beloyarsk-4 and is in an agreement to sell one like it to China.
Russia has had the 600MW breeder running for decades. Russia's oil and gas money should fund this through to completion with the goal of remaining an energy power after the oil and gas run out.
More automated design and new approach to safety
Deep burn fission (new types of reactors)
smaller systems for better economics
Are ideas that should be pursued along with innovative nuclear fusion.
Even if HPG fails, those new ideas for nuclear fission are good.